Belizean breathes biking |

Belizean breathes biking

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen CO, Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The air’s considerably thinner than he’s used to in his native Belize, but Rodrigo Leiva is quickly adapting to life in Colorado. That’s because he knows time spent here will make him a better cyclist.

Thanks to Mesa State College club cycling team coach Jeff Mozingo, the 18-year-old Belizean has the chance to hone his competitive skills in a state where cycling reigns supreme. Leiva is temporarily living under Mozingo’s Rifle roof for a summer of racing and training in the mountains.

The hope is to return to Belize in a few months primed to tear up the racing scene there.

“I want to try and see if I can get in the best shape of my life,” Leiva said. “In November I have a really hard race [in Belize], so I want to go back there pretty much good to race.”

Mozingo, who’s spent his life as a competitive cycler, hopes to make that happen.

“Cycling is at a much higher level here than in Belize,” he said. “He’s racing Category 4 right now. We want to get him to Category 3. I think he’ll be at a much higher level [when he goes back].”

Leiva crossed paths with Mozingo in the Belizean’s home city of Orange Walk. Mozingo makes yearly trips to the Central American country to ride and race with a local team there, to which Leiva belongs.

Whenever there, Mozingo always extends an offer to Orange Walk riders to spend training time in the states.

“I just kind of go down there and race on local teams with the younger kids,” he said. “Three or four years ago I started going down there. [Cycling’s] fairly popular down there.”

Leiva, who spent time training and riding in California last summer, couldn’t pass up the opportunity. He’s only been in Colorado for a week.

The dry heat and thin air is a far cry from what he’s used to back home, but he’s doing his best to manage.

“The altitude makes it really tough,” he said. “In Belize, when I train it’s usually kind of humid. It’s much better training over there.”

Leiva is competing as part of the local Two Rivers Cycling Club team. Beyond racing, he participates in the all-ages club’s more adult-centered rides on Tuesdays.

But Leiva, who’s just finished his first year of vocational college back home (he’s training to become a plumber), is out riding pretty much every day. He knows that’s what it’ll take to advance his cycling career.

“Starting right now, I’m making the sucker face,” he said. “It’s hard but if you love the sport you’ve got to keep going. I’m just training every day, trying to train right and get on the right track.”

A third-place overall showing in the 17- and 18-year-old age division at the weekend’s Western Slope Omnium ” a local event featuring a road race and criterium ” showed he’s on that coveted right track.

Mozingo has faith.

“He’s a good sprinter,” Leiva’s temporary coach said. “I think if he dedicates himself to it, he’ll definitely excel.”

If nothing else, he’ll return home with much stronger lungs.